Monday, December 9, 2013

Part 2: Gaudi in Barcelona - Park Guell

Park Guell is a park in Barcelona, commissioned by Eusebi Guell, an industrial tycoon, designed and built by Antoni Gaudi between 1900 and 1914.  It took 14 years from design to completion of this park, you might have great expectations of this.  Now, let me bring you there for tour.

To get to Park Guell, you can take the Metro L3 (Green Line) and alight at Valcarca station.  Remember to alight at Valcarca, not one station before it.  From both stations you can get to Park Guell, but one takes a much longer route.  Once you come out from Valcarca, there are clear signs to lead you the way.

Slopes Leading to Park Guell

The park is located at a hill top.  There are many up slopes to climb to get there.  The city has been very considerate, you built escalators to help the poor tourists in many sections.  Did I hear a sound of relief? :)

After almost 30 minutes of up slope, you will finally get to the ticket office and entrance.  Tickets are at 8 euros per person, and 400 people are allowed to enter every half an hour.  Your ticket has your eligible timing to enter.  If you miss your timing by 30 minutes, too bad, you can't enter.

Admission Ticket to Park Guell

Park Guell claims to occupy a total area of 17.18 ha, or 0.1718 km^2.  I had great expectations!


There are two houses of typical Gaudi style, decorated with broken ceramics standing on the two sides of the main entrance.   These two are the ONLY two major structures in the park!

Supposed Covered Market

The center piece of the park is an empty columned hall which was supposed to be a covered market.  The entire hall is empty.  Zen style of decoration and architecture give people a sense of peace & calm, rich feeling with minimal decorations, but Gaudi style?

In front of the empty hall, there is the most famous lizard in the world.  Whoever that had been conned to come to Park Guell would have to have a photo with this ugly lizard, so they will remember forever in their life how they had been conned by Gaudi.

Ugly Lizard by Gaudi

Atop of the empty hall, there is more emptiness.  A big open space where you can have a glimpse of the city of Barcelona.

And, that's about the end of the tour!

It took Gaudi 40 years to build one facade of Church of Sagrada Familia and 14 years to build Park Guell.  Some may argue that he was a perfectionist who wanted everything to be perfect, especially for a place for GOD.  I highly suspect it was just a beautiful excuse.  Remember that joke?  A young lawyer happily walked into his father's law office and told his father proudly that "Dad, I finally finished off that traffic accident case which had dragged you for 20 years!"  The father was visibly upset and said, "Son, I was hoping you can get your son through college with that case!"  

You can find all my blog posts about my Spain-Portugal-Gibraltar trip here.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Part I: Gaudi in Barcelona

Antonio Gaudi (1852-1926) was a famous architecture that brought Barcelona to international fame, with his crazy architectural designs.  The never ending construction of Church of Sagrada Familia is well known across the world.

Standing on Munjuic, the high point where you can see the entire city of Barcelona, Church of Sagrada Familia is one dominating structure.

Gaudi was the architect who conceptualized the design of this church, and he himself finished a small portion of it, over a long period of 40 years!

Nativity Facade, Church of Sagrada Familia

Nativity facade, one of the 3 facades of the church, was designed by Gaudi before his death.  The facade describes the story of, as you know, Nativity, the birth of Jesus Christ.

Close-up Of Nativity Facade

The story is really simple.  You have Virgin Mary cuddling baby Jesus in her arms, with Joseph standing by them.  On one side, you have the 3 wise men bringing gifts to the baby Jesus.  Simple story, simple sculptures, then why did it take Gaudi 40 long years just to finish this one facade?

Sea Turtle

Actually, it was intended.  Gaudi put two turtles statues at the base of the facade, one land turtle, one sea turtle.  The reason is to indicate that the progress WILL be slow.  The justification was that you must take all the time needed to have a perfect work.  When it comes to work for the home of God, it is even more important to be slow.  Well, I will express my own opinion to that justification later.

Just to show you how slow Gaudi made it to be, let's look at the following two scenes.

Virgin Mary riding on a donkey

Slaughter of Babies by order of King Herod

In the first scene, describing Virgin Mary bringing baby Jesus to some place (I am not so familiar with the bible story here, please let me know if you can help), riding on a donkey.  Gaudi spent a year just to get the right donkey.  What do you mean the right donkey?  He insisted on a particular donkey, how particular it should be?  Nobody knows, it was by Gaudi's feeling.  He had to FEEL right with the donkey.  After a long search, and found Gaudi's 'particular' donkey, he insisted to lift the donkey up to the height of where it stands now to make the live model.  You can imagine how uncooperative the donkey would be.

Next, let's look at the second scene, which describes the slaughter of babies by the order of King Herod.  The soldier who is going to throw the baby to death was modelled after a drunkard in Barcelona at the time.  Gaudi insisted that this evil soldier must be modelled after some bad guy in the city at that time.

Now, do you have an idea of why it took so long?

Interior of Church of Sagrada Familia

Gaudi conceptualized the interior of the church to be a forest.  The pillars represents the trunks of trees, with branches spreading out at the top.  And it does feel like you are in a forest, minus the fresh air, of course.  The design is so unique that I don't think you will ever find another church that looks even faintly alike.

On the opposite side of the Nativity facade, it is the passion facade, which is modern addition and designed by another architect.

Passion Facade

In the Passion facade, the architect honoured Gaudi by having his face carved onto one of the characters as shown in the photo above with the red circle.  It was said to be the face of an old Gaudi, which looks a bit different from the young Gaudi.

Well, enough of Gaudi for one day, let's continue with another entry.

You can find all my Spain-Portugal-Gibraltar trip blog posts here.

14-Day Spain-Portugal-Gibraltar 2013

The Eye, City of Art and Science, Valencia, Spain

In Oct-Nov this fall, I had the opportunity to visit Spain, Portugal and British colony Gibraltar with CTC tours.  The tour had been memorable and pleasant.

I will use this blog entry as the 'Table of Contents' for all my blog posts about this trip.

At first, I thought of writing about this trip in a pure chronicle way, which is the easiest, you just follow the itinerary.  At a second thought, I decided to do it on a themed basis.  I will group relevant and interesting places and encounters together.

Let's open our eyes and have an open mind to explore this journey together.

Part 1: Gaudi in Barcelona
Part 2: Gaudi in Barcelona - Park Guell